Outsource? Or, Do It Yourself?

Why should you outsource when you have the ability to manage the process in-house?  This is a question companies of all sizes and in all industries have struggled with for years.  All too often the question is short-circuited with a financially-driven “no”.  And, in some cases, you may not have the funds available for outsourcing.  However, please bear with me here as we look at outsourcing from a total cost of ownership and business risk perspective.  In this example, we will use a small business in need of a newly designed set of marketing collaterals (newsletter, brochure, and business card template).  At the end of the discussion, I hope to leave you with a few questions to ask yourself when you are faced with a similar business decision.

These days, it is difficult to find a company without software as simple as Microsoft Office, or one of the many desktop publishing platforms – such as those offered by Adobe.  All, of which, are more than capable of developing professional-looking marketing materials.  Usually, someone in the company may be quite capable (as well as enthusiastic about) developing the new marketing materials from scratch or by incorporating one of the many templates available to the them for little or no additional cost.  Now, does that make the decision for in-house design the right choice?  Just because the tools are available?  Maybe, maybe not.

I’ve personally observed many examples in which a product was developed in-house (and, done well to be fair) – but the actual cost of design and production outweighed the cost of outsourcing.  This additional expense may be difficult to identify on the surface, but a closer look will reveal the costs.  Unless the company has a marketing or publishing department with an experienced staff, these are some of the hidden costs they may incur:

First, the distraction from your company’s core competency – or core purpose can be expensive.  Is the staff member (or even you) taken away from sales or production opportunities in order to design a new brochure?  Is your competition designing newsletters, or spending their time calling your clients?

Second, ask: How many times will the document be sent back and forth between you and the printer to get the layout, specs, and graphics just right in order to look professional on the printer’s equipment?

Next, are there legal and compliance issues related to the materials, which could be easily overlooked when produced in-house?  Was the clipart or stock photo you are using acquired and published legally?

Now, what happens when the employee leaves the company?  Will you be left to redevelop the documents on a different platform if they happened to be the only person who understood the software used to design your new newsletter?

What about the professional look?  Does the document tie in with your image, other marketing collaterals, speak to your clients or customers, match the demographics of your target market?  These are some of the items you may or may not overlook when producing new marketing materials in-house.

At the end of the day, you may have a new set of very nice-looking documents, which (on the surface) were produced at a lower cost than if you had hired a local advertising firm.   Before you make the commitment to pull valuable staff resources away from new sales opportunities, serving existing clients, or developing new products (your core business processes), I recommend you take a few minutes to ponder the real cost of in-house development.  In many cases, you will be pleasantly surprised to learn you are better off relying on a professional – even if you have the knowledge and desire to do the work yourself.  A professional who has an up-to-date knowledge of the tools, methodologies, and systems to more cost effectively, manage your process, while at the same time ensuring your security, compliance, and legal risks are minimized.

About Ron Woodbury

Owner and Founder of Ron Woodbury Consulting.